Nazanin Boniadi and Betty Gabriel on ‘Counterpart’ and Playing Smart, Complex Women

     December 15, 2018

counterpart-interview-nazanin-boniadi-betty-gabrielFrom show creator Justin Marks, the Starz drama series Counterpart is back for Season 2, with Howard Prime (J.K. Simmons) going to work and living his life while his counterpart Howard Alpha (also J.K. Simmons) is locked in a mysterious black site and cut off from everyone he knows, each stranded in the other’s world and adapting for their own survival. At the same time, Clare (Nazanin Boniadi), a spy who has deeply rooted herself into her role as Quayle’s (Harry Lloyd) wife, has to decide where her loyalty actually lies, and recently hired former FBI agent Naya Temple (Betty Gabriel) finds herself responsible for cleaning house at the Office of Interchange, where it seems as though everyone has secrets.

At the Los Angeles press day for the new season, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Nazanin Boniadi and Betty Gabriel to talk about getting to play such smart and complex women, how much they knew about the season and their characters prior to shooting, finding out how things would play out, how Temple feels about the world she’s in now, and their most memorable scenes this season. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

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Image via Starz

Collider: I really love how there are a lot of really smart, layered, complex women on this show.

NAZANIN BONIADI: Thank you for saying that because we’ve been telling people, all day, that we’re complex, amazing, layered and powerful.

They’re also both protagonist and antagonist, depending on who they’re dealing with.

BONIADI: Yeah.

So, what’s it like to be a part of telling a story like that, playing characters like these?

BONIADI: So good.

BETTY GABRIEL: So good. It’s always good to be able to identify with the characters that you’re watching and not just easily put them in the bad box or the good box. They’re real people that you care about, and you invest in their journey. I got the luxury of watching Season 1, and I was so invested in Clare’s journey because it was beautifully played, by the beautiful Nazanin Boniadi.

BONIADI: It’s been a love fest, all day. This is really a genuine love fest.

GABRIEL: And it’s easy to do because it’s true.

BONIADI: It’s very true. I know that I was so lucky to have Miss Betty. I love that these women are so strong and powerful, but also not stereotypes or cliches. None of these women exist for the sake of pleasing or serving a man on the show. They very much exist for their own right, and they’re self-reliant. Most of us have families. Not Baldwin, but the rest of us have families and responsibilities, but we exist purely for ourselves and our own stories. That’s refreshing. There are four kick-ass lead women.

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Image via Starz

Who are all very deadly.

BONIADI: Don’t mess with them.

GABRIEL: They’re survivalists, and they’re highly skilled.

How much did you actually know about what your character arc and journeys were going to be for the season? Were you told much of that journey, ahead of time, or do you learn about it as you go?

BONIADI: Last season, we were given all 10 scripts, at the beginning. This season, we were given five scripts, in the beginning, and then the next five came at the half-way mark. So, we had a lot of information, as far as what’s happening, ahead of time.

When you got the second half of the season, what was your reaction to what you’d be doing?

BONIADI: I had a really good conversation with (showrunner) Justin [Marks], at the end of Season 1, where I was like, “You know, I would love to explore x, y, and z with Clare, next season.” As an actor, you often go in to talk to the showrunner of a TV project and say, “I would love for this to happen,” and it rarely ever does. But Justin is so collaborative that he took a lot of that to heart and made it happen. So, when I read it, I was pleasantly surprised because I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is exactly what I wanted to explore for the character.” Especially Episodes 7 and 8 in Season 2, for my character, I read the script and couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t because I sad, but because it was such a moment of, “Wow, I get to do this? This is amazing!” It’s cathartic and beautiful for me to be able to explore that, as an actor. In that sense, he’s a genius showrunner.

Betty, what was that like for you, being new to this season?

GABRIEL: Being the newcomer is always fun.

BONIADI: She fit right in.

GABRIEL: We’re introduced to my character right away, and it’s clear what she’s there to do, which is to hunt the spy. She’s a spy huntress. And we see, throughout the course of the season, just how good she is. That’s all I’m gonna say.

BONIADI: She’s also such a grounding presence for the show. Where everyone is in turmoil in their heads and in their lives, here’s this really calm and together human being. We so desperately needed a character that was there to figure it all out. Everyone’s got their own mess happening in their lives, and they’re being torn in all of these different direction. I feel like that that’s what makes her character so compelling.

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